Cost of Building up a frameset

With Supply issues I have just about given up on upgrading my Gravel Bike. I"m looking for a bike that can race (no bikepacking) and has *GRX ( i want 2x). My local bike shop has suggested I buy an Open UP frame and they can order the components. I know that when you get the components as a complete bike you get a pretty big discount on the group set. So my question. How much of a premium will I pay if I go the route of frameset and putting together the bike. One extra issue, I can get a carbon wheelset at 50% off.

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This question is like asking “what’s the length of a piece of string”… but as an estimate, I’d say that if you are going to be paying full retail for the frame and components, and the labor to have it built up, you’ll be spending 1-1.5k more than if it was the same spec offered for sale as a complete bike.

There is a give and take though, such as being able to get the specific crank length, handlebars, seat etc that you want, instead of having to remove and resell stock components etc.

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The cost penalty of building a bike from the ground up really isn’t that bad.

The labor is a factor, as is markup from having an LBS also sell you the components. You could bring your own components, but I’d personally try to avoid that unless they simply didn’t carry what I wanted.

You may also save a few bucks by buying the saddle, stem, bars, tires, etc that you really want (and fit you), without having to pay for stock components that you may end up replacing at some point anyway.

You could also build your bike yourself, if you’re so inclined. I built my first as a teenager, before Youtube existed. It’s not terribly difficult, but you should have some mechanical background as well as patience and attention to detail. You’ll also be shelling out some money on tools.

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Does the time frame work better for you to spend the extra on getting everything separately?

If I was sourcing (or having someone source) all the components I would definitely get a fit first to make sure I was ordering the right stem length and having the steerer cut to the right length.

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Coincidentally, I just sourced and built an OPEN UPPER frame and sourced all the parts myself.

Finished product HERE

One big difference from your situation (potentially?) is that I already had a pretty nice gravel bike, so the OPEN was an upgrade and I was able to take the wheels, stem, handlebars, seat post and saddle off my old bike … so it was worth it for me for sure. I basically paid for the frame, power meter, groupset and labor.

I think the real question might be: would you ever buy a fully built bike that had the EXACT spec you wanted with no upgrades ever necessary, or desired? If the answer to that question is “yes” - then I think building up the bike on your own won’t be much of a savings. But, if you want the bike exactly the way you want it with every part chosen to your specifications, then I think it’s a great way to go.

Good luck, and send pictures with the final build🤘

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If you buy everything from the dealer, then you will pay a bit more, but not an exorbitant amount. Often (but not always) dealers will replace parts when you buy a bike at no extra cost.

Use the opportunity to customize your bike to the max: pick your favorite crank length, cassette (e. g. a SRAM 11-36 cassette in lieu of Shimano’s 11-34), handlebars, etc. In case of the Open UP, you can decide whether to go for 650b wheels or 700c wheels, tire width, etc. Avoid stock components, it’d be a waste to save money in the wrong places here.

IMHO you should approach it from the “perfect fit and components within your budget” side rather than wanting something cheap. The Open UP frameset is from what I hear great. I also ride a Vroomen bike, and they are very opinionated.

Also, inquire what a custom paintjob would cost. I paid about $250, I was amazed how cheap it was. (My LBS suggested a RTP frameset, because of parts shortages last year. I love the result.)

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Great advice and congrats! Beautiful build

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It’s cheaper to build up from a frameset than it is to buy the high end stuff like S-Works, etc. Plus you can select which components you really want and not waste anything. Lower end bikes, however, I believe are cheaper to just buy complete.

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Manufacturers can go to Shimano or Sram and say “We are producing a new line of bikes with a production run of 100,000 and we want to use X components. What price?” As a single customer you can’t compete with that so where you might pay $100 for a rear derailleur, Trek or Specialized might only pay $40 (no idea what they do pay, just an example price).

On a decent mid-price bike in the £2000 - £3000 range I reckon I’d save anywhere from £500 - £1000 on building it myself. Given the recent hikes in component prices this might have changed.

Building a bike really isn’t that difficult, as above it’s attention to detail that counts. For a bare frame the hardest things to fit will be the headset and the bottom bracket (if it’s a press-fit style one) but if there’s a local bike mechanic you trust then they should be able to do that for you for a reasonable price. One of my bikes has a Hope PF style BB and the fitting tool costs nearly as much as the BB! After that it’s mostly a case of fitting and tightening bolts, for a carbon frame I’d invest in a torque wrench, but other than that you just need a set of Allen Keys and possibly Torq keys, some cable cutters. Setting up the gear indexing is fiddly but there’s lots of videos on YouTube on how to do it, just take your time.

Build my last two bikes myself. Bought the frames on offer, and also looked for parts on offer or used (some my own, some bought used). All in all I probably paid as much as a fully build bike from the manufacturer costs, but now I have my choice of groupset and brakes. Both bikes also have better wheels than the factory version.

To be honest I think I’d always rather build a bike myself and pick the components, unless the ready-build version is very close anyway.

For the OP - I’d ask your LBS to price the build up and see if that’s worth it to you, or if you’d rather wait.

It used to be that I could build a bike for less than an equivalent complete bike, and my builds would be all XT/XTR/Chris King etc, and a complete bike would be SLX/XT and some pretty average wheels etc. So for road bikes it was ultegra with nicer wheels vs 105 with cheaper wheels.

My recent GRX build has shown me that it is much harder these days. Two points would be:

  1. Shimano closed up supply chains a couple of years ago, so UK/Ireland vendors could no longer ship to US. To me, this has driven prices up. And COVID supply chain issues mean 1/2 the items I got were back ordered, + used prices are crazy!

  2. When I build a bike, it’s hard not to use high end parts at every step. A complete $4k gravel bike probably has SRAM rather than GRX, probably some cheaper and heavier wheels, some cheap tires, some cheap bars etc. When you build yourself, you tend to use good $30-40 bar tape, dura-ace cables, DT hubs etc … so you spend $5-6k, but possibly build a “$7k” bike … but if you’d bought a complete bike, you’d have bought the $4k one and not this $7k one.

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I built my most recent bike (full suspension MTB) up from the frameset because I could get that faster than I could get the build I would’ve bought in my size. I had my LBS build the frame up for me, but I sourced the parts. Because I had time since the frame took ~6 months to get here, I shopped around for sales and also bought some new take-offs for the build, which helped keep costs down. All in, I was only a few hundred over what the complete build would’ve cost, and I got it built up from the start with parts I wanted rather than swapping out things on the complete bike, which I would’ve done. I had some existing parts I wanted to keep (e.g. wheelset), and there were some stock build items on the complete that I didn’t like, so I would’ve been replacing them and selling several new take-off items, which was a hassle I didn’t want. I’d definitely do it again if only for the simple fact that having a bike specced with the parts I want from the start is worth the extra cost to me (and in this case, the extra cost wasn’t much), and if you can take your time with sourcing the parts, you can probably find some deals that help keep the cost down. For your situation, I definitely agree with having your LBS price out the build and make your decision from there, but I also wouldn’t shy away from potentially sourcing the parts yourself if you do decide to build up from the frame rather than buying complete.

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I built up a cross bike last year and I didn’t feel like it was that much more or less than if I had bought it complete. Biggest difference for me was the ability to build it up the with the parts I wanted and not the manufacturers spec.

I bought the parts from several different places (this was at the height of the supply chain issues) and I think I may have saved a little doing it that way.

Doing the work yourself will definitely save you as well. If you get all the parts and then ask a shop to build it you’ll end up losing on the labor alone.

As a bonus building a bike from scratch at least for me was a really fun experience. If you’ve never done it before I highly recommend it.

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Not a gravel bike but for my case, I bought a frame on close out (half price). I bought Dura Ace mechanical - rim with every component on sale. I bought the most expensive bars, stem, and saddle I could find. I paid a local shop less than $200 in labor and ended up with a $10k bike for less than $7k. I later bought Roval wheels at 15% off (new customer discount from Specialized’s website) so it’s now a $12k bike for $9k. And it’s under the UCI limit despite being a 59.5cm.

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There is a lot here that is factually incorrect….

  • no brand is producing 100k of any bike that we would be discussing in this situation. Go look at the recall numbers that Specialzied recently had for the SL7…you’ll be shocked at how low the numbers actually are.

  • Shimano and SRAM set their prices (with volume incentives). No one goes to them and says “hey, I’m doing these bikes…how much?”

  • The component pricing is sometimes (but not always) based on the volume that the factory is doing, not the brand. Individual deals can, and are, struck for certain bikes / promotions, but sometimes the best option is to use the factory pricing. (I will note that this is more often related to lower-priced components, but can include higher spec stuff)

  • Yes, suppliers pay a lower price for a particular component, but then everyone else has to get their slice of the pie along the way. The factory needs to make their margin, the supplier needs to make their margin and the dealer needs to make their margin. So the end price that the consumer pays can be very similar in the end.

ETA - I am currently in the situation the OP is describing. Buying a frame from the LBS and building it up with components I have sourced. Frame is a Giant TCR Pro Disc ($2300). Got a 12 spd Ultegra group (less crank) from Excel for $2k. Will be supplying my own wheels, HB, stem and crank.

Retail for a complete bike with Ultegra 12 spd Di2 is $6300. I’m up to $4300 with my purchases so far. I could easily source comparable quality products for my missing pieces for less than $2k.

So while it is often cheaper to buy the bike complete, you can actually do it for less with some judicious shopping.

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That’s an option, too, provided you have the tools and ideally a parts bin. From the top of my head, but you’d need:

  • 1–2 torque wrenches (one for the lower range, 1–16 Nm, for most smaller bits and bobs, a larger one for the crank if necessary)
  • a bearing press
  • tools for cable routing
  • a tool to get the fork crown in place
  • a chain breaker
  • inner cables (unless you have an electronic groupset with hydraulic brakes)
  • a special cable cutter for inner and outer cables as well as hydraulic brake hoses
  • a brake bleed kit (if you are using hydraulic brakes)
  • a bike stand

Ideally, you should have some experience doing maintenance. And of course, setting up a fully is more involved than a road bike. My brother did it by himself a few years ago with little-to-no experience. He just had a LBS put in the fork crown after he tried and tried, but never gotten the alignment right. Personally, I’d only go that route if you enjoy wrenching and are confident you can finish the job.

I have my first custom bike and bought a custom bike. The difference is huge, everything is exactly as I wanted (except for the cranks, which were not available at the time). I don’t have to put up with cranks that are too long for my liking or hope that the stock saddle fits me. The wheels are the wheels I wanted, period.

And like you wrote, you can optimize your bike in interesting ways. I bought a used mountain bike, and just from the build you could tell that the previous owner sweated over what to put on. The frame is older, but he had a LBS do a complete makeover, including a full XTR 1x11-speed groupset, Stans (aluminum) wheels with XTR hubs, carbon handlebars and a pro-level XC fork from 2018. The previous owner only swapped the XTR brakes for something cheaper prior to the sale (pity, I would have paid extra for those). With a mid-level carbon frame in size L and quality aluminum wheels the thing weighs 9.9 kg with pedals and bottle cage.

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Oh I paid the shop to do mine, sorry if that wasn’t clear. It still was only a few hundred more than a comparable complete build even with that cost factored in because I was able to find some good deals because I had the time to wait on parts. I’m not personally mechanically inclined enough to want do it myself, nor do I want to buy the tools needed for it.

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Being a bit idle today (tripped and damaged my knee the other day so can hardly walk :face_holding_back_tears:) I did some internet shopping as I’ve always fancied a singlespeed MTB. Found a PlanetX frame for £500 and went looking.

Total bill for frame and parts but not including pedals as I’ve a few pairs knocking about…

£2400 :flushed: (roughly $3k at today’s exchange rate)

Remember that’s for a singlespeed so no rear derailleur or cassette. I’m sure there are a few little finishing bits like grips I’ve forgotten.

Most of the parts are items that I’ve used before and I’m happy with rather than the cheapest or “best”. Sometimes went with more expensive stuff such as Hope components as my other MTBs have things like Hope brakes but even then the Hope brakes are just £40 more expensive per end than Shimano XT. Things like a Deore BB rather than Hope and a cheap stem would save another £100 but that’s still £2200 for a singlespeed MTB.

Apart from fitting the headset I could do the build myself, maybe two to three hours since there’s no fiddling with gears and indexing.

That was a bit of a shock TBH, the last time I built a frame up around four years ago it cost £1500 all in including the £400 second hand frame.

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Is there a complete bike (from planet-x or others?) that compares to your build, and if so, how much is it?

That sounds like a lot, did you go for expensive wheels?

My mtb build was a project to see if I can get under £1k and und 10kg - just about managed sub £1k, but it’s 11kg.